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Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula
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Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/17/2013 15:21:53 MST Print View

This was sort of a last minute trip inspired partly by Ike Jutkowitz's Pictured Rocks trips. Southeast Wisconsin is practically void of any real backpacking trails (Kettle Moraine counts, but is not terribly enchanting), and one must drive 6-7 hours to find some good hiking; most of it being in the Michigan U.P. This makes exciting overnighters tough to come by, but that didn't stop me from trying. We don't have mountains, but we do have the Great Lakes. These vast freshwater beauties have climates all of their own, have shaped a breathtaking landscape, and give life to outdoor adventures. The more I backpack and packraft around these waters, the more I am called back to them.

I first came across Newport State Park a few years ago while researching possible backpacking spots. Its small size (2300 acres) and location within Wisconsin's touristy Door County made it forgettable. However, after the holidays I was itching to get out somewhere and I gave Newport another look. Being a little more than 3 hours away made the drive palatable for an overnight. Newport is Wisconsin's only formally designated wilderness park and offers about 25 miles of trails, 13 reservable campsites, and 3 non-reseravable ones, most of which are located near the shores of Lake Michigan. In winter, some of these trails are groomed for skiing, and all are open to hiking and snowshoeing.

I also had some new gear that I wanted to test out. A pair of Keen Targhee II's, a Bear Paw floor for my Trailstar, and a ULA Catalyst. Without boring you with the details, each of those performed very well, and I was happy with each of them. If you want to know more about any of those or my other gear, please ask. I did have two gear failures. The valve on my MSR stove leaked after the first use. I suspect that ice crystals prevented the valve from closing properly. I had to leave my stove attached. My Steripen also did not work. This was my fault because I took inadequate batteries. I tested the "flashlight" function at home, but not the UV lamp. Noted for next time. Luckily a fresh snowfall provided good drinking water.

Weather was mostly clear, but cold. Daytime highs hovered in the low 20s, and nighttime temps dropped between -5 and -10F. My thermometer bottomed out at 0F, and local reports vary between the aforementioned temperatures. I snowshoed about 10 miles on trails and along the frozen shoreline before setting up camp, and another 2-3 miles back to the car in the morning.


















These ice crystals formed on the mid-panel interior clips of the Trailstar from my breath during the night.






Edited by T.L. on 02/17/2013 16:16:30 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/17/2013 16:35:05 MST Print View

Nice idea for a trip Travis!

One question ... how much fiddling did it require to get that drumhead tight pitch on your trailstar using deadmen?

OK, a second question ... I see several state designed natural areas on the pennisula. Any idea if bushwack camping is allowed?

edit: I found this about rules for the natural areas

Edited by jcolten on 02/17/2013 16:37:54 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/17/2013 16:53:53 MST Print View

Thanks for that link, Jim. I had not seen that page. It generally backs up what I've found within Wisconsin. Most places do not allow backcountry camping, but few do, such as the Black River State Forest.

RE the Trailstar... What I did was lay out the shelter and stick in the stakes. I attached the guy lines with about 3 inches of line left for tightening. I work-hardened the snow around the anchors and let it sit. In the meantime, I melted snow for drinking. By that time, the stakes were somewhat set so I could loosely erect the tarp with my poles. I went about other business, like exploring adn installing the floor of the tarp. I tightened the guy lines a bit more. And so on. Within an hour, those anchors were rock hard and I could crank on the lines pretty good. Raising the center pole also helped.

The snow was very powdery, so that made it more difficult. I'll admit, there are times where I'd rather carry the weight of a free-standing shelter! But, it gives me something to do and geek over in camp.

With the Trailstar, it really helps if you're very proficient at judging initial placement of stakes, ESPECIALLY in winter. Restaking is common any time of the year, but having to do it more than once in winter sucks. Luckily, I had a good pitch the first go around.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/17/2013 17:05:15 MST Print View

Nice trip report, Travis. You've proven once again that a little creativity goes a long way. There are probably lots of good places within easy reach for many BPLers, if one will think outside the box. Places that are terribly crowded during the summer can offer a near-wilderness experience during the winter. Wisconsin winters can be brutal, but also very beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/17/2013 18:06:46 MST Print View

Nice report and photos there Travis.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/18/2013 08:28:14 MST Print View

Gary, yes when you don't have readily accessible trails or bushwackable wilderness, it takes some thinking.

The Ice Age trail winds through the state and there are some good looking sections I'd like to do eventually.

Our packrafts have also opened up some opportunities. Look for some videos from me this spring as I hope to raft stretches of the Peshtigo or Menominee rivers.

Some of the best Midwest rafting is not terribly far from me. Google "Piers Gorge Menominee" and "Roaring Rapids Peshtigo". I got a GoPro helmet cam for my birthday that I can't wait to use.

Thanks Ken.

Edited by T.L. on 02/18/2013 08:28:52 MST.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/18/2013 08:48:58 MST Print View

Yeah, I would think a pack raft would open up scads of possibilities. I once did a lot of kayak camping in CO, and it was great to just pull out onto forest service land and set up camp far from any trails. And we always got to sleep next to a noisy river, with nobody else around.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/18/2013 09:00:11 MST Print View

>And we always got to sleep next to a noisy river

I like the river noise, too. Helps keep my mind from turning a mouse or other harmless creatures into a Travis-eating boogeyman.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Shark Tent on 02/18/2013 13:35:28 MST Print View

As I was hiking along, I came across a few guys setting up their camp. As we were chatting, one of the guys says to another,

"hey, did you bring the shark tent?"


We continued chatting, when more of their party showed up. And again, someone asked the guy about his shark tent. I didn't think much of it, assuming it was the brand or model name. That is, until he started setting it up.

Behold, the shark tent!!


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Shark Tent on 02/18/2013 13:39:41 MST Print View

If that thing was made out of cuben I'd be all over it.....

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Shark Tent on 02/18/2013 14:14:39 MST Print View

I can picture a future email to MLD...

"Hey Ron! I've got a custom job for ya!"

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Overnight on the Wisconsin Peninsula on 02/18/2013 17:35:04 MST Print View


Enjoyed the pictures and your trip selection methodology.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: overnight on 02/21/2013 09:48:58 MST Print View

Nice, Travis. I really liked the unusual patterns in the ice.
Ice has the power to transform the landscape into something stark and beautiful. For me, there's nothing like winter camping, and I'm sad that it already feels like its slipping away for the year.